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3 Myths About Weight Loss: Fad Diets Edition

Just like bell bottoms and shoulder pads, diets go in and out of fashion. From juice cleanses to the Keto diet, people are always trying to keep up with the latest and greatest ways to lose weight and stay healthy.
 
Unfortunately, not all diets are created equal, and some of these trending diets promote misconceptions about weight loss. Still, fad diets promise quick weight loss — and they're incredibly popular in the US.
 
 
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Whether you end up chugging juice all day or avoiding an entire food group, fad diets can come with restricting parameters. And while monitoring what you eat is always a good thing, these diets might lead you to live an unhealthy lifestyle — either temporarily or for many years to come.
 
Here are 3 misconceptions about weight loss that come from popular diets.

1. Replacing all my meals with juice or shakes is a healthy and sustainable way of living.

 
Promoted by fad diets like juice cleanses or shake meal replacements, swapping meals with liquids is a popular way to try to lose weight. Juicing, which requires the use of a professional juicer or purchasing pre-packaged juices, removes the nutrients and water from fruits to turn them into juice (not to be confused with blending, which grinds up the entire fruit or vegetable).

Unfortunately, this philosophy can come with some drawbacks, as these juices and shakes often contain unhealthy ingredients and deprive your body of other important nutrients.

As a part of a healthy diet, the American Heart Association recommends limiting daily sugar intake to only 25 grams for women (or 6 teaspoons) and 36 grams (or 9 teaspoons) for men. However, many juices and shakes — even the "diet" ones — are loaded with sugar. Some juices in a juice cleanse have as many as nearly 200 grams of sugar, and certain protein shakes contain up to 75 grams of sugar. This can lead to health problems such as coronary heart disease (CHD) and weight gain.

Also, while the marketing of fad diets may suggest juice diets have a cleansing effect, that may not be the case. Excess sugar can have a spasming effect on your gastrointestinal tract, which may feel like a cleansing — when it's really just an uncomfortable reaction from your digestive system.

Both juices and shakes promise important nutrients. Juices are full of fruits and veggies, which are certainly good for you with the antioxidants they provide. And shakes tend to offer highly sought-after protein for building muscle.

However, when you omit whole foods entirely, you miss out on some of the good stuff. For instance, the juice version of fruits and veggies takes out fiber, which can leave you feeling hungry more frequently. As for shakes, they don't provide all the components of a healthy diet, either, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Juice and shakes can be a good option every once in a while — but both should certainly be supplemented with nutritious whole food, as well.

2. Skipping entire meals — such as breakfast — will help me lose weight.

Intermittent fasting — which may require you to avoid food for up to 16 hours at a time — has recently been trending in the diet world.

The idea behind intermittent fasting is to restrict calories to a certain window of time, such as between noon and 8 p.m. As a result, your body enters a period of food scarcity called metabolic switching, which causes it to convert fat into energy. Plus, it restricts calories, which may lead to weight loss on its own.

However, while it may be a successful way to lose weight, there are some serious drawbacks.

Intermittent fasting can be challenging to follow. Not eating for long periods of time can leave you hungrier than you normally would be. When you're finally allowed to eat, you may end up making unhealthy food choices and even overeating.

Another significant risk of intermittent fasting is its similarity to eating disorders — and its potential to trigger one. Some studies have shown that initial attempts to lose weight may include skipping meals and progress to prolonged periods of starvation and self-induced vomiting.

Cutting out empty calories, such as sugary drinks or refined grains, is a much better way to approach dieting. Depriving yourself of an entire meal isn't a healthy way to lose weight — and it may not even be successful.

3. Certain food groups, such as carbs, are the reason I'm overweight.

Thanks to diets such as the Atkins diet or Keto diet, carbohydrates have a bad reputation. These diets restrict or totally cut carbs out of the picture. This is because while bread, pasta, and rice are delicious, they can be fattening, which means omitting them from your diet can help you lose weight.

However, the real problem isn't grains themselves — it's refined grains, such as white bread and white rice. On the other hand, whole grains, such as brown rice and whole-wheat bread, provide your body with important nutrients like iron and fiber. Plus, they can actually keep you feeling fuller.

Low carb diets are also often high in fat (such as the Keto diet). If followed for a short amount of time, a low-carb, high-fat diet may reduce your risk of diabetes and inflammation as well as improve your metabolism.

However, these diets come with some serious risks. Over time, they can actually lead to diabetes and obesity because of your increased fat intake. In addition, there have also been studies that link high-fat diets with tumor growth in the colon, causing colorectal cancer.
 
Other food groups have been on the chopping block recently, as well, such as dairy. Just like whole grains, dairy provides essential nutrients like protein and calcium. By cutting this food group out, you're making it much harder for your body to get the nutrition it needs.
 
Rather than ditching an entire food group, follow a diet with healthy foods from all groups. That way, you can be sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs to stay healthy.
 
Ditching the Diets — and Eating Healthy on Your Own
 
Diets come and go, but one thing will always remain the same — eating a well-balanced diet filled with whole foods while staying active will help keep your waistline slim and your body healthy.
 
A nutritious diet includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins (such as chicken, fish, or nuts). It's also important to keep sodium and sugar to a minimum.
 
If you're looking to lose weight, talk to your health care provider about how much food you should be eating for your activity level. With some thoughtful eating and regular exercise, you'll be well on your way to a healthy body — without a fad diet bringing you down.
 
Looking for tips on how to eat healthier? Call 610-738-2835 to schedule a one-on-one nutrition counseling session with a registered dietitian. Telemedicine appointments from the comfort of your home are available.
 

 

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Chester County Hospital's Health e-Living Blog offers a regular serving of useful health and lifestyle information for the residents of Chester County, PA and the surrounding region.

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